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Lockdown at Manchester's Central High: Residents say the area is a 'crime haven'

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 09. 2018 12:05AM
Michael Cosine, left, lives at 445 Maple St. in Manchester. Police believed they had cornered a shooting suspect at that address Friday. He spoke with a reporter on the porch Saturday with neighbor James Perry. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER -- Sadly, residents living in the area of Maple, Hanover and Amherst streets weren’t dumbstruck their neighborhood became the scene of a fatal shooting and dramatic lockdown of nearby Central High School that lasted all afternoon and into the night Friday.

Several interviewed Saturday wanted the public to know how dangerous the streets they call home have become.

Miguel Muniz lives in the building that is kitty-corner across the street from the 445 Maple St. apartment building that police believe shooting suspect Paul Dimick, 26, ran into after Justin Lee, 32, was fatally shot Friday morning.

Lee died of his injuries.

Muniz commutes to work, where he drives a truck for a laundry service in Lawrence, Mass.

“I go to work at 3 a.m. and it’s like the middle of the day in the alley next to my place. There are streetwalkers, drug dealers doing their thing, people so high they can barely walk,” Muniz said. “I’ve had people knocking the window of my car who were tripping like crazy.”

Muniz said he has children attending Central High, Hillside Middle School and McDonough Elementary School.

“I tell my kids, ‘Be aware of your surroundings,’ ” Muniz said.

“I grew up in New York City. In some neighborhoods, if you weren’t paying attention, you risked becoming a statistic.

“That can happen here too,” he said.

Douglas Smith lives at 326 Amherst St. and works for a Valley Street agency that serves the homeless.

He said drugs are often dealt in the open in broad daylight on these streets.

“This guy could have come out and killed some children. You have a crazy, violent guy out there and the cops did absolutely the right thing locking down the streets.”

Police had taped off roughly two blocks in either direction from the shooting scene, and an apartment building at Hanover and Maple streets where they believed Dimick was hiding.

As the hours ticked by and the standoff continued, so did the lockdown.

Bystanders began encroaching past the yellow police tape.

They sat on porches and walked through alleys and across parking lots to reach better vantage points, in some places standing in clear site of the apartment building’s windows and within 10 feet of police officers in full SWAT gear with rifles drawn, who were behind cruisers.

For much of the day, it appeared Dimick was inside the apartment building. Every few minutes, a police negotiator would speak to him through a bullhorn, reassuring him that police did not want to hurt him and encouraging him to surrender.

Police investigate the standoff scene in the building at 445 Maple St. in Manchester on Saturday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

About 6 p.m., several short bursts of gunfire and the sound of breaking glass could be heard.

SWAT officers ran back and forth between buildings a block from the apartment building and the negotiator stopped using the bullhorn.

Alan, who declined to give his last name and who lives at 455 Maple St., felt the assault firsthand.

“I was sitting in my kitchen and I started sneezing and my eyes were burning. Then I realized it was the tear gas that had blown into our building,” he said.

Michael Cosine said the clamp-down was too excessive.

A disabled veteran, Cosine lives on the first floor of 445 Maple St., where police thought Dimick was holed up.

Cosine was denied entry to the building.

“I couldn’t get back into my apartment. I couldn’t get my heart medication,” said Cosine, who said he suffered a heart attack several months ago.

Late Friday, he went wandering to try to find a place to sleep and learned that the homeless shelter in the neighborhood had no beds.

“I ended up sleeping in the park; that’s all I could do,” Cosine said Saturday morning. “Today, my neighbors have taken me in and let me crash until they let me back in (to my apartment) and that’s a relief.”

Cosine said in other cities displaced residents would get a voucher to stay in a hotel until a crime scene was cleared.

“I haven’t eaten anything but candy since yesterday. I went to the Cumberland Farms and they had sold out on sandwiches,” Cosine said.

A resident of the building for a year and a half, Cosine agreed it’s a stress-filled environment.

“This place is a crime haven. I’ve been broken into. One time, I found three guns had been hidden under our porch.”

Police Chief Carlo Capano said Friday was a challenging crime scene for the SWAT team and support officers, who took some time to fully clear and determine Dimick was gone.

“To say the apartment building was chaotic would be an understatement,” Capano said.

“There were over seven apartments, basements and attics that had to be searched and they were all loaded with stuff.”

Saturday afternoon, the city’s Police Critical Incident Response Unit van was fully staffed with officers clad in sterile gear who carried envelopes and boxes of paper and other materials out of the building that could help lead police to Dimick.
Capano said his officers won’t rest until Dimick is brought to justice.

“I don’t want to lose sight that a man lost his life tonight and our officers put themselves in harm’s way looking for that armed suspect,” Capano said during a news conference late Friday night.

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